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BRIEFLY

Z-TEL SHARE BUYBACK AUTHORIZED: Z-Tel Technologies Inc. said Monday that its board authorized the repurchase of up to 1-million shares of the Tampa telephone company's common stock over the next 12 months. The share buyback was announced after Monday's market close. Z-Tel's stock closed Monday at $1.07, up 6 cents, or 5.9 percent, on more than twice the average trading volume.

GAS PRICES KEEP RISING: Supply problems in California helped push up the average price of gasoline by 5 cents per gallon over the past two weeks, an analyst said. The average price for gas was about $1.75 per gallon Friday, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations nationwide.

IBM CHIEF GETS $4.5-MILLION BONUS: Samuel J. Palmisano, chief executive of International Business Machines Corp., saw his compensation jump 45 percent in 2002 over the previous year when he was president and chief operating officer. Palmisano, who became CEO in March 2002 when Louis V. Gerstner Jr. retired, received a base salary of $1.4-million and a bonus of $4.5-million, according to a filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

CRACKER BARREL SUIT DENIED: A federal judge in Georgia has denied class-action status to a lawsuit against Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., which alleged discrimination against African-American workers at the company's restaurants. In a 175-page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Harold Murphy said the employees did not prove the merits of a national class-action suit.

TREASURY AUCTION: Interest rates on short-term Treasury securities fell in Monday's auction, with rates on six-month bills dropping to their lowest level on record. The Treasury Department sold $17-billion in three-month bills at a discount rate of 1.055 percent, down from 1.175 percent last week. An additional $17-billion was sold in six-month bills at a rate of 1.030 percent, down from 1.170 percent. The new discount rates understate the actual return to investors _ 1.077 percent for three-month bills and 1.053 percent for six-month bills. Also, the Federal Reserve said the average yield for one-year constant maturity Treasury bills fell to 1.22 percent last week from 1.27 percent the previous week.

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